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Friday, September 23, 2016

Cast Iron Studios, TNT & Film Offices team up to repeat Talent Diversity Initiative

by Georgia Luke

Last year, Cast Iron Studios and TNT–along with Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios–hosted the first Northwest Talent Diversity Initiative. The 36-hour intensive acting course gave 32 performers of color the opportunity to hone their chops with two of Portland’s finest acting coaches and a myriad of guest speakers, at no cost to the actors.

Within weeks of graduation, the Class of 2015 began reporting an increase in their callback and booking rates on film, television, web and commercial projects. Cast Iron Studios therefore set out to repeat the initiative this year.

TNT agreed to return as the program’s main financial partner, thanks to Manager of Casting Alexis Booth, allowing Cast Iron Studios to send 32 new actors through the intensive this fall.

tdi-class-of-2016

Acting coaches Kristina Haddad of the Actor’s Lab, and Ben Newman of Portland Actors Conservatory–both experienced performers in their own right–will be leading two classes composed of 16 actors each.

The success of the program also garnered the attention of the Portland Film Office and the Governor’s Office of Film and Television, who both stepped up to provide additional funding to bring last year’s graduates back for an intermediate class. Sixteen students will be returning this fall to undertake 36 more hours of training, under the tutelage of coaches Jana Lee Hamblin and Scott Rogers.

tdi-intermediate-class-of-2016

 

Participating actors were nominated by their agents as committed and talented individuals who would benefit from the initiative.

In-kind sponsors this year include The August Wilson Red Door Project, Artists Repertory Theatre and Teatro Milagro, without whose assistance this initiative would not be possible.

 

 

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

KPTV covers Talent Diversity Initiative Graduation at Cast Iron Studios

by ranielle

On Saturday, November 21st, the 32 actors from our Class of 2015 Talent Diversity Initiative graduated at Cast Iron Studios.

The fun-filled day featured mock auditions, a Q&A with the team at CIS, and guest speakers Mary McDonald-Lewis (dialect coach), Kendall Wells (fight choreographer and instructor), and Grimm Executive Producer Norberto Barba.

The celebration ended with a press reception, with guests including Mayor and First Lady Hales, Representative Lew Frederick, Portland Development Commission’s Brian Lord, Portland City Council candidate Fred Stewart and many others.

We had a blast producing this Initiative, along with our partners at TNT, Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios. Here’s to making it a yearly event!
KPTV – FOX 12

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Oregon film and media types tackle talent diversity issues

by admin

(Thanks to the PBJ for this article on our training program!)

Portland Business Journal
October 12, 2015
By Andy Giegerich

TNT and three film and television groups are hosting a “talent diversity initiative” that could help bring a wider range of performers to stage and screen.

The project is training 32 Northwest actors. Along with TNT — which has shot a handful of series in Portland— backers include Cast Iron Studios, which is working in partnership with Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios.

Lana Veenker and TNT are doing their part to bring more diversity to Portland’s acting scene. Photo Credit: Cathy Cheney

“We realized that we shared a common goal in that we all want to see more diversity represented in the projects that shoot in the Northwest.” said Lana Veenker, president of Portland-based Cast Iron Studios, a film and television casting company, in a release.

Veenker said producers, directors and executives always want more diversity in their productions, but that it’s difficult finding that diversity in Portland.

“Actors of color are underrepresented in the top acting schools and acting classes, places that are often the gateway to talent representation and introduction to casting directors,” she said. “And when they are not able to train at the highest level, it becomes even more difficult to compete and to succeed.”

Cast Iron Studios has worked on the TNT series “Leverage” and “The Librarians,” which continues to be shot in Portland.

The classes began Oct. 10. On Nov. 21, the training will culminate in a mock audition session. Veenker hopes those actors will begin getting work in 2016.

Link to original article.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cast Iron Studios, Acting Coaches Host Talent Diversity Initiative

by admin

32 Northwest Performers Selected to Complete 36-Hour Actor Training Intensive for Film & Television

For Immediate Release
October 10, 2015

(PORTLAND, OR) Thirty-two Northwest actors have been chosen to complete a six-week intensive training program, as part of a new Talent Diversity Initiative to take place this fall in Portland. The program is being produced by Cast Iron Studios, in partnership with Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers Studios, and will be sponsored by TNT.

Diversity Initiative Class Photo 2015 Small
“We realized that we shared a common goal,” said Casting Director Lana Veenker, president of Portland-based Cast Iron Studios, a film and television casting company, “in that we all want to see more diversity represented in the projects that shoot in the Northwest.”

This can be challenging, however, in a city with the notorious distinction of being the “whitest city in America.” “On every commercial, series and film that we cast, producers, directors and executives are always telling us, ‘more diversity, more diversity.’ And believe me, we bend over backwards, but it can be really hard here.”

Veenker understood that the issue was not one of talent or even numbers, but of opportunity and access. “Actors of color are underrepresented in the top acting schools and acting classes, places that are often the gateway to talent representation and introduction to casting directors. And when they are not able to train at the highest level, it becomes even more difficult to compete and to succeed.”

The reasons behind this disparity are as varied as the individuals affected by it: Economic hardship, work or familial duties, cultural stigma, language barriers, lack of support by immediate family, even a perception that there’s no place in the industry for actors of color or their stories.

“We thought, ‘the one thing we can do is remove one of those barriers,’” said Veenker. “Let’s find a way to put a pool of actors through an intensive training program at no charge, and get them to a place where they can be booking roles more consistently. It will benefit all of us.”

Veenker approached Alexis Booth, Manager of Casting at TNT. Cast Iron Studios has had a long relationship with the network, after casting four seasons of Leverage, two seasons of The Librarians and a few TV pilots. Her goal was to see if they would underwrite the program. She also approached known Portland acting coaches Jana Lee Hamblin of Act Now Studio and Scott Rogers of Scott Rogers Studios, to ask if they would provide the bulk of the training. The response was enthusiastic from all camps.

Cast Iron Studios next petitioned Northwest talent agents to nominate actors they felt could most benefit from the program. “We wanted performers who had already been vetted as having talent and a strong commitment to their craft,” said Veenker. “And then we wanted to give them that extra boost; some high-level coaching that will help them close the deal in the audition room. These are already actors in whom we have a lot of faith. Now we want to see them crossing the goal line.”

Beginning on October 10th, two classes of 16 actors each will hone their skills by working closely with coaches Hamblin and Rogers over five 6-hour-long sessions. On November 21st, the course will culminate in a mock audition session and Q&A at Cast Iron Studios, with members of its casting team, followed by a media reception. “Over the coming year, we’ll hopefully start seeing our Class of 2015 on big and small screens nationwide. That’s the goal,” said Veenker.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Cultivating a World-Class Talent Pool 1000 Miles from Hollywood

by admin

Thanks once again to Bonnie Gillespie for featuring Portland in her column The Actors Voice – POV for Showfax.com.

Cultivating a World-Class Talent Pool 1000 Miles from Hollywood
Lana Veenker’s POV: Portland Casting
The Actors’ Voice – POV
May 1, 2011

This fantastic contribution from Portland casting director Lana Veenker is not one meant to warm the hearts of Los Angeles-based actors, hoping production is headed back to Hollywood. It’s a column about how local talent has stepped up its collective game to attract–and retain–major productions in the past few years. “Come for the tax breaks; stay for the talent,” could be the new minor-market motto, you might say.

Cultivating a World-Class Talent Pool 1000 Miles from Hollywood

In November 2008, I found myself in the Los Angeles offices of Electric Entertainment, meeting with the executive producers of TNT’s Leverage. They were considering moving their entire production to Oregon, but they had one big concern:

Was the local talent pool deep enough to fill the needs of their show, episode after episode, season after season?

Sure, my Portland-based company had provided casting on some big movies (including Twilight, Extraordinary Measures, and Feast of Love, to name a few) and some smaller ones (such as Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park), but it had been at least 15 years since a television series had set foot in the state.

Film and television production had just begun hitting its stride in Oregon when British Columbia implemented its film incentive program in the 1990s. This move–combined with a favorable exchange rate on the Canadian dollar–all but killed the momentum in the Northwest. Hollywood began to look past the forests, mountains, and lakes of Oregon, to the forests, mountains, and lakes of Vancouver BC and surrounding areas.

Many Northwest actors and crew who had been earning a decent living in their hometowns were suddenly faced with the decision to either uproot their families and move to Los Angeles (where there was still work to be found), or leave the industry altogether.

The creation of film tax incentives in Oregon in 2003–along with a more equitable exchange rate–has brought many of the jobs back to the Northwest, and we’ve been rebuilding our industry ever since. So when executive producer Dean Devlin threw down the gauntlet that November afternoon, I told him (a tad boldly, in retrospect): “Absolutely. We have enough actors to cast that for you in Oregon. No problem.”

Based in part on that assertion, Leverage announced a few months later that it was coming to Oregon.

Panic set in.

I knew what this meant to our film office, to the hundreds of crewmembers counting on these jobs, to Northwest actors searching for a reason to stay here, and to my own bottom line. I understood the financial commitment that Electric Entertainment was making–and the damage my career would sustain–if I failed to live up to my word.

I thought we had a strong enough base of actors to meet the demands of the show, but I had no idea whether or not our talent pool would truly meet their expectations, nor for how long.

My office organized a “town hall” meeting, which was attended by hundreds of Northwest actors. This time, it was my turn to throw down the gauntlet. An entire production company was moving its TV show to Portland, partly on my word. To prepare for it, I told actors, we were expanding our offices and staff, and upgrading to a new online casting system.

Now, I needed them to deliver the goods.

We challenged our talent pool to do everything in their power to up their game, whether that meant getting new headshots, assembling more professional demo reels, improving their online presence (website, IMDb, etc.), or recommitting themselves to ongoing training. I knew we had a number of actors who could compete in any market, but I was concerned that we might use them all up in our first season. I needed the next generation to step up and meet the challenge. And man, have they done so!

I can’t keep up with the number of weekly industry nights, script readings, and screening events going on in Portland, much less the countless independent films and webseries shooting around town. Our top acting coaches’ classes are filled to capacity, workshops are selling out, and it seems like every actor I encounter is in a show, penning a script, producing a short film or feature, volunteering as a reader in casting sessions, or simply focused wholeheartedly on training.

Talent agency rosters are filling out with new actors we never knew about before, and highly professional on-camera talent are hoofing it from as far away as Bend, Eugene, Ashland, and Medford to attend our casting sessions in Portland, never complaining about the commute. In my 11 years of casting in Oregon, I’ve never seen actors this motivated. And their determination is paying off.

Homegrown filmmaker James Westby–whose film Rid of Me features a cast made up almost entirely of Northwest actors–has captured the attention of the prestigious TriBeCa Film Festival (his previous made-in-Oregon feature, The Auteur, was hailed by TriBeCa organizers as “the funniest film in the festival”).

We are now in our third season of casting on Leverage, with over 38 episodes under our belts. Its producers and directors are still as thrilled as they were their first year in town, when they realized that–although they had budgeted to fly up four or five actors per episode from LA–the average (not including name actors hired to satisfy the network) was closer to one per episode. At times, none are flown in at all, local actors having snagged all the guest star and co-star roles themselves.

Since then, other pilots, films, and series have hit the Oregon Trail:

    • Meek’s Cutoff starring Michelle Williams, Restless by Gus Van Sant, and Extraordinary Measures starring Harrison Ford, all filmed in Oregon in 2009.

 

  • The IFC series Portlandia (starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein) shot six episodes in Portland last year, and just got picked up for another ten.

 

 

  • TNT has increased its order for Leverage from 15 episodes in season two, to 16 in season three, to 18 this year.

 

 

  • NBC chose Oregon for its made-for-TV-movie A Walk in My Shoes in 2010, while Brain Trust (the TBS pilot we cast in December) may go to series this fall.

 

 

  • 2011 is projected to be the busiest year for film and video production in the state’s history. So far this year, in addition to the first few episodes of Leverage season four, we have cast Grimm for NBC (the highly anticipated pilot by the producers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel), and Gone, a Lakeshore Entertainment thriller starring Amanda Seyfried.

 

If Leverage and Portlandia continue to be successful, and Grimm and Brain Trust both get picked up, we will have four television series shooting concurrently in and around Portland.

I’ve heard the rumblings of more Hollywood films joining this wagon train in months to come, and local actors continue to lend their talents to dozens of indie projects, plays, commercials, industrials, infomercials, and voiceover gigs. In fact, more and more Northwest actors are now piecing together a fulltime living from their acting endeavors. This would have been almost unheard of just a few years back.

There’s never been a better time to be an actor in Oregon, and our actors have never impressed me as much as they have of late. Sean Hayes–one of the producers of Grimm–raved about the quality of our talent base after we had completed casting on the pilot. Gone producer André Lamal and director Heitor Dhalia did the same after our first round of callbacks. Leverage directors keep asking, “Where are you finding these people?!? How come we haven’t run out yet?”

Is there an endless pool of actors in the Northwest? Of course not. Are there categories in which I wish we had more options? Umm, yes. (Hint: if you’re a strong, non-Caucasian actor of any type–especially over 30–or a strong actor who fits the thug/bad guy or cop/security guard type, now might be a good time to hitch up your wagon and head west… or north, as the case may be). But what our actors, coaches, acting schools, independent producers, and directors have managed to accomplish over the past few years has been nothing short of remarkable:

They have created an environment that supports and cultivates a world-class talent pool a thousand miles from Los Angeles, and three thousand miles from New York City.

As long as we keep endeavoring to raise the bar professionally–each generation of artists helping to groom and inspire the next–the momentum will continue and the pool will be replenished. In fact, I’ve already made it a habit to tell producers: “Give us a shot at the lead roles. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

—–

Kudos to you, Lana, and to all the local talent keeping so many major productions so well cast and well acted! Let’s hope all actors with the opportunity to work under local hire status in other markets see this as a great time to take advantage of all the great stuff going on. Congratulations, Portland, on getting better and better! Very exciting!

About Lana Veenker

Lana Veenker began her career in London as a casting assistant on international co-productions for major studios and networks. When the Portland native returned to her roots in 1999, she launched what is now the Northwest’s most successful casting company, helping to raise the bar on what producers can expect from a regional talent pool. She is a member of the Casting Society of America and the International Casting Directors Network.

 

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Oregon Filmmakers Testify before Joint Tax Credit Committee on HB 2167

by admin

In case you missed this the other day, Oregon filmmakers visited the State Capitol in Salem last week to testify before the Joint Tax Credit Committee on HB 2167, the bill that would extend and expand our state film incentive program.

Committee members later said that this hearing was a model for how legislative hearings should go, as Oregon film industry members painted a very clear picture of the value of our incentive program from every possible angle.

Legislators first heard testimony from Dean Devlin, Executive Producer of TNT’s Leverage, Vince Porter, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Film and Television, Steve Oster, Producer of the NBC pilot Grimm and former Executive Director of the Film Office.

They were followed by producers, crew members and vendors from around the state, a talent agent and casting director (moi!), and two representatives from educational institutions offering Film Studies programs.

As Co-Chair Berger summed it up: “This has been a real revelation of an industry that some of us, we only see what’s up in front, we don’t see all the things that are going on behind. Fascinating.”

You can listen to the audio of the hearing here:

RealPlayer required (free download here).

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Film Production is Off the Charts in Oregon!

by admin

Film production is off the charts in Oregon right now, thanks in large part to OPIF, our state film incentive program!

CASTING NOW

Casting is underway for three major film and television projects at Lana Veenker Casting, including Season 4 of TNT’s “Leverage,” starring Timothy Hutton,

Leverage


a new pilot for NBC called “Grimm” starring David Giuntoli, Silas Weir Mitchell, Russell Hornsby and Bitsie Tulloch,

David Giuntoli (left), Silas Weir Mitchell (right)

and a feature film for Lakeshore Entertainment called “Gone,” starring Amanda Seyfried.

Amanda Seyfried

To find out how to get involved in these productions as an actor or extra, CLICK HERE to jump to the bottom of the page.

OTHER PRODUCTIONS IN OREGON

Portlandia,” the IFC series starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, has just been picked up for 10 more episodes, scheduled to debut next January,

Portlandia


and producers should be finding out soon whether or not “Brain Trust,” the TBS pilot that shot here in December, starring D.B. Sweeney and Michael Urie, will be going to series!

D.B. Sweeney (left), Michael Urie (right)

Congrats to everyone involved in Oregon film and television production. This year is shaping up to be our busiest yet!

Moreover, our homegrown productions are gaining national and international attention:

SPECIAL SCREENING OF “MEEK’S CUTOFF”

On March 15th at 7:00 PM in Salem, there will be a special screening of “Meek’s Cutoff” starring Michelle Williams, which recently shot in Eastern Oregon, and was shown at Sundance, Toronto and Venice Film Festivals. Come show your support for the Oregon film industry, and all of the clean, green, family-wage, high-tech jobs we are creating all across the state!

Meek’s Cutoff

For information on tickets to the “Meek’s Cutoff” screening at the historic Elsinore Theatre, please visit Tickets West or the Oregon Confluence website.

“RID OF ME” TO PREMIERE AT TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL

Tribeca Film Festival in New York has just announced that feature film “Rid of Me,” directed by James Westby and produced by Katie O’Grady, and shot entirely in Oregon, will premiere in April 2011 as part of its Viewpoints lineup.  Not to miss!

Bravo to all the hardworking cast and crew who make these productions possible.

_____________________________

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

NOTE: This information is for extras and actors who live in the Pacific Northwest.

INFO FOR EXTRAS:

For information on working as an extra on “Leverage” or “Gone,” please contact Extras Only.

For information on working as an extra on “Grimm,” please keep an eye out on Portland Craigslist, under Talent Gigs. Any openings will be posted there.

INFO FOR PROFESSIONAL ACTORS:

UNREPPED ACTORS
If you are a professional actor based in Oregon or Washington and you are NOT represented by a talent agency, you can create a free profile in our casting database.

  • Go to The Casting Frontier
  • Create a Basic (Free) profile in the Pacific NW Region
  • Fill your profile out completely, including your headshot and resume
  • Send the Public Link of your profile to talent[at]slateplease[dot]com, subject line: NW Actor Submission

Hint: Your public link contains a lot of random letters and numbers. If there aren’t a lot of random letters and numbers, it’s not a link we can use.

ACTORS SEEKING REPRESENTATION
If you are seeking representation in the Northwest, please contact SAG or AFTRA for a list of franchised agencies, or check the Production Directory on the OMPA website under Talent Agencies.

NOTE: We are a casting company, not a talent agency, so we don’t represent actors. Creating a Casting Frontier profile will put you in our database, but you still need an agent to promote you!

REPPED ACTORS
If you are a professional actor based in Oregon or Washington and you ARE represented by a talent agent, you should already be on Casting Frontier. There is no need for you to resubmit or self-submit. Just let your agent know you’re interested and available, and they’ll do the rest.

****Please no calls or drop-by visits.****

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on film production in Oregon, check out the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film and Television‘s website or the Confluence website.

Back to Productions

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Show business is ‘on a roll’ in Oregon

by admin

Ken Boddie talks to Vince Porter, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Film and Television, and Lana Veenker, about the state of the film industry in Oregon.

Show business is ‘on a roll’ in Oregon
KOIN 6 News
March 1, 2011
by Ken Boddie

Portlandia.

Leverage.

Twilight.

They’re just three of the television and film productions made right here in Oregon; and there’s more where that came from.

Film and television in Oregon is headed for a record year in 2011. A major network, NBC Universal, is committed to shooting a pilot in Oregon based on the Grimm’s fairy tales, and several more projects are coming that could put hundreds of Oregonians to work.

Leverage is into its third year–they just started shooting this week up on Mount Hood,” said Vince Porter, director of the Governor’s Office of Film and Television.

Portlandia caught the imagination of enough people that they’re coming back for a second season this summer,” said Porter.

“We can say that 2011 will be the biggest year we’ve ever had in the state.”

At any given time there are about 13,000 Oregonians working in the film and television industry.

Since 2007, producers have spent about $178 million in Oregon, with an overall economic impact of $350 million.

Those numbers are expected to grow to $275 million and about $500 million, respectively, by the end of the year.

Lana Veenker owns a Portland casting agency that hires for Leverage and is currently casting for the new NBC’s upcoming Grimm-based project.

She sees the growth in Oregon’s film industry, adding that Oregon is definitely on the map when it comes to film and the proof is in the jobs.

“We have fantastic film crews, we have a really strong base of actors, we have every kind of location you can imagine,” said Veenker.

Link to full article.

 

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Thug Boot Camp trains out-of-work burly men for roles on "Leverage"

by admin

The Oregonian
January 28, 2010
by Kristi Turnquist

UPDATE: EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT EXTENDED TO FEB 4!

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Think you’re pretty tough, do ya’? Well, here’s your chance to prove it. Sign up for Thug Boot Camp! This is a weekend training workshop for guys who’d like to learn basic acting and stunt technique for TV shows and movies. Lana Veenker Casting and Tools 4 Actors are putting on the session. Veenker’s company has handled casting for “Leverage,” the TNT series that has made Portland its location home. The series is set to film 15 more episodes here starting in March. Veenker says there’s “a need to train up a new generation of actors and stunt people — particularly men to play cops, security guards and thugs — in order to keep the jobs local.”

There’s high demand, Veenker says, for men with martial arts and military backgrounds, ethnic diversity and athletic, burly or muscular builds. The Thug Boot Camp is intended to train guys with these characteristics to deliver a few lines and handle uncomplicated fight scenes. The two-day session lasts 16 hours and includes participation in classes, Q&As, a behind-the-scenes session, networking and live teleconference with members of the “Leverage” team.

It happens from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 6-7 at the University of Oregon’s Portland campus, 70 N.W. Couch St. Cost is $275 when registered by Jan. 31 Feb 4. Details: http://regonline.com/leveragebootcamp or http://castingscoop.blogspot.com

Thanks to the Oregonian and Kristi Turnquist for the plug!

Link to article.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

It’s official! "Leverage" calling Portland home for season 3.

by admin

News broke last week with local media outlets, and so now it’s official that TNT’s “Leverage” will be back in Portland next year to shoot their third season. We’re not only big fans of the show and everyone involved, we’re big fans of the great opportunities a production like this brings to town.

CON-CON? DID I HEAR THAT RIGHT?

If you’re A) not on Twitter or B) on Twitter but not yet following Dean Devlin, you may have missed this intriguing little poll. This announcement isn’t official, and there’s nothing set yet so far as we know, but it sounds pretty darn cool!

The Twitterverse is already buzzing about the possibility, according to this Twitter search.

Speaking of Twitter, be sure to follow these other “Leverage” peeps:

Leverage HQ @leveragehqorg
Aldis Hodge @Aldishodge02
Christian Kane @ChristianKane01
Beth Riesgraf @BethJRiesgraf
Timothy Hutton @T47
Mark Sheppard @Mark_Sheppard
Amy Berg @bergopolis
John Rogers @jonrog1
Peter Winther @peterwinther
Apollo Robbins @ApolloRobbins
Jeremiah Chechik @tinroof
Christine Boylan @KitMoxie

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Leverage" returning for third season

by admin

27 August 2009 11:00 AM, PDT
HollywoodReporter.com
By James Hibberd

TNT has renewed “Leverage” for a third season

The Timothy Hutton starrer, about a team of con artists and hackers who bring down corrupt bigwigs, has been averaging 4.1 million viewers and ranked ninth on the list of most-watched returning TV shows on cable this summer.

“Thanks in large part to its engaging cast and clever storytelling, ‘Leverage’ has proved itself to be one of the most exciting and fun hours on television,” said Michael Wright, head of programming for TNT. “The producers, cast and crew have been incredible to work with, and we anticipate another wonderful season.”

The network ordered 15 episodes to debut next year. The show’s summer finale is Sept. 9, then it will return to finish its second season this winter.

TNT this month also renewed freshman drama “Hawthorne”; another new drama, “Dark Blue,” remains on the fence. »

See full article at HollywoodReporter.com

(Congrats, cast and crew!)

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